HDR Efex Pro Review

Nik HDR Efex Pro is now part of the Nik Collection

In March of 2013 Google announced that all Nik Software plug-ins would be bundled together into the Nik Collection for just $149! The bundle includes HDR Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2, Sharpener Pro 3 and Dfine 2.

  • Trey,

    You don’t have to tell me anything about this amazing software. I have attended at least three webinars. I can’t get enough. I can hardly wait until it is released in October. I don’t know if you agree but don’t you think it surpasses Photomatix? It looks so much easier to use and I LOVE NIK software – using the control points, etc. I read your review on Topaz last year and I bought it and i liked it ok. But then I read your review on NIK and even though it looked like it would be harder to use, I took the plunge and ordered it anyway January of this year. No regrets. Easy to use and I pretty much use it exclusively now. Ever since i bought the complete package I stopped using Topaz, Photomatix and CS3. Well sometimes I use these products, but hardly ever. NIK is for me – all the way.

    total NIK fan

  • Jan

    Trey, when are we going to hear from you with this review? Love to hear your impressions especially now that Photomatix 4.0 is also available. Thanks.

  • Demo’s out. I gave at a few runs yesterday. Generally I’m not too impressed with ghost reduction and alignment. It’s probably best to use Photoshop or Photomatix for building the 32-bit image. I’ll try doing this then entering into HDR Efex for tonemapping and lighting. The aproach to HDR is really smart, but if your images aren’t perfectly aligned or objects are moving, I’m not sure this software alone can do the trick… yet 😉

  • Fred Graff

    I have just started doing multiple image HDR. So far I am using CS5 and the demo of NIK HDR EFX Pro. Half of my
    images were taken using a tripod and half handheld. I found that CS5 did an excellent job on alignment and ghost
    removal on handheld shots while NIK’s alignment and ghost removal was really poor on the handheld shots. Really
    like NIK’s presets and found CS5’s almost unusable. For realistic images I preferred CS5 for a natural look and
    NIK for a surrealistic look. Next I will try Photomatrix 4 as a comparison.

  • Craig Lewis

    Now that HEP has been released, I think you need to post a review of it. In my (not very) humble opinion, it blows away everything else. I’ve been using Photomatix for more than five years and even am a beta tester for both Photomatix and HEP. Even without control point technology, HEP is better than the other HDR programs. Add in CP and all of the others are just taking space on my hard drive.

  • I love this amazing software………….I was waiting for it and got it……really cool

    please check this shot done with it


  • HT

    I tried this software. While the U-point control and other controls are very nice I still think Photomatix is still better. The automatic alignment is not as good as the one on photomatix.

  • YaroZN

    I tried the demo twice in PS4 now, both advances = 2 PS freezig… 🙁 Unacceptable in this stadium!

  • Dave Turley

    I’ve got the full version and it’s so much more user friendly than my beloved Photomatix. The interface is simple to use, and I know what it’s doing when I move a slider.
    Here’s my first attempt using it.

  • Andy MacLeod

    Highly disappointed! Despite exceeding the system specifications, the use of Hasselblad files (i.e large) crashed the system. What on earth are the pre-sets for?!!! – They look really terrible! – AWFUL! It only came with a ‘Getting started’ guide, which seems very scant information for the high price (the vendor did not even know if more guidance was available).

    Overall Photomatix looks far more subtle, less rough looking, less noisy and side by side photomatix has produced more pleasing results.

    I had really high hopes for this software in view of the chance to combine HDR with the U point technology – But I am afraid to say it seems like a really expensive ‘donkey’ of a product.

  • Glad to see it isn’t just me. I am very, very disappointed with HDR Efex Pro. I’ve been working with it several weeks, and I just can’t get the beautiful, smooth results like I do with Photomatix and finished in Viveza 2. I was really hoping this would be the one-piece solution I was looking for. But HEP is slow, grainy, contrasty, and I just can’t get the results I was hoping for. I love Viveza, and the U-Point technology, so I was thrilled when HEP was announced. I like the interface. But the results haven’t come close to justifying what this software costs, I’m sorry to say.

  • Lennyd

    I tried the demo version of HDR Efex Pro on my 32 bit Vista PC. It crashes PSCS5 everytime – even when using it on one jpg or raw file. Nik says that it will only work on 64 bit for now. The 32 bit is coming in January. On their web site they don’t mention this. I got this info from the HEP Flickr group that Nik was monitoring on the day the software was released. All of those messages in the Flickr group have been deleted. I guess there were too many negative comments. And I love the other Nik plug-ins and use them on every photo so I was really looking forward to HEP.

  • Steve Clarke

    I am using HDR Efex on a 64bit Windows 7 (Quad core AMD processor with 8gb ram) and it absolutely flies. There is no delay in seeing any adjustment instantly reflected on the preview screen. Additionally, I have not had any of the hangs or crashes reported by the other posters.
    I must say at the outset that I really like NIK products, and HDR Efex is no exception. The UI is easy to understand and use, and to me is much more user friendly and professional looking than that of Photomatix 4. NIK’s HDR product is also much more versatile with the addition of control points, however NIK really missed the boat when they did not permit their control points to also be able to adjust colour (like in Viveza). I have also noticed that often times the NIK images seem to have a very slight ‘whitish fog’ or cast over them, when compared side by side with the same image processed in Photomatix. The other thing that I have noticed when comparing Nik’s HDR vs. Photomatix HDR images side by side, is that Photomatix seems to immediately produce a much crisper, cleaner, sharper looking image with nicer richer colour rendering. Despite being a big NIK software fan, I have to honestly say that, Photomatix just seems to do a better job ‘straight out of the box’ in finding and showing those beautiful colours whereas comparatively speaking, Nik’s HDR Efex leaves those same areas flat looking or misses them entirely. This is not to say that you cannot make adjustments to an HDR Efex image to get it to look as good as that of Photomatix, however you have to do a bunch of ‘tweeking’, in order to get to the same starting point as the Photomatix image. Perhaps HDR Efex will do a better job on some images than Photomatix, and these roles will be reversed, however I have not yet encountered that.
    All in all though, Nik’s HDR Efex is pretty darned impressive for a first entry into the HDR software world, and I suspect that Nik will continue to rapid advances and enhancements to the product.

  • Marty

    I have been trying to use this for a while now – Intel quad core, 8GB RAM, a hard drive that goes on forever, and CS5. The graphics card is an on-board Intel equivalent to the big names. HDREfex worked once, but it now crashes CS5 every time I try to use it, even on small (1meg) jpegs. NIK has so far been 0 help – they have blamed everything except HDREfex (other competitor’s plug ins, the graphics driver, WATCOM, etc.) and even got me to try a beta 1.1 release, all to no avail.

    Anyone else run into this issue, or have any hints of how I can get around it? I’d like to get it to at least work so I can see for myself how it works and whether I will use it over my other workflow.


  • Lenny

    Marty – since you have a 64 bit PC and HEP still crashes then something must be seriously wrong with HEP. I thought it was just my 32 bit quad core.

  • Steve Clarke

    Hi Marty, what OS are you using and is it a 64bit OS or 32bit? Have you applied the latest OS Service Packs from Microsoft?
    I am assuming that you are using a 64 bit OS since a 32bit OS can only access a maximum of 4gig of your 8gigs worth of memory.
    As I’m sure you already know, HEP will not work as a plugin on a 32bit OS with Adobe Photoshop CS4 or CS5. However, it will work with either 32 or 64 bit versions of Lightroom. If you are using HEP with CS5, make sure that CS5 is not running in 32bit mode.
    As a final thought, is it possible that you are using McAfee or Norton virus checkers or firewall? I have had several application problems with both of these products affecting Nik software (and various others) in the past. AVG has never caused me any such issues with Nik however.
    (yeah, yeah, I know that all the Mac users reading this are thinking ‘ha-haaaa!’…. and they are absolutely right!).
    Anyhow, those are just a few quick and basic ideas that I thought might help.

  • ty

    i purchased hdr efex pro and i know it’s a great product, but it runs sooo slowly on my imac. anybody have some advice on how to speed the software up? my processor is 2 ghz intel core 2 duo and my memory is 4 gb, 667 mhz ddr2 sdram

  • David

    l have used hdr efex pro no problem with crashing at all it runs smooth as silk.System;win7 64bit,i7cpu and 12gb ram,fun to use but can produce too much noise in part,control points are probably the most fun but getting to understand new software to take advantage of its tech takes time,l’ll keep using photomatix and hdr efex pro as they both give different results for each image.

  • John Richardson

    I have been using HDR Efex pro since launch on a iMac 2.8ghz Core i7 and 8 gig of 1067 DDR3 ram.

    Not one single problem with speed or crashing. I am happy with the results and the more I mess with it the easier it gets.

  • I initially used Photomatix, but am now applying Nik HDR Efex Pro whenever HDR is called for in my work. I have found the Nik application much more intuitive, with more control over certain sections of the image. I am also really pleased with the impact this tool has on single exposures. My only regret is not trying the Nik tool first, before purchasing Photomatix. That said, I know there many who prefer Photomatix over any other tool. Look forward to reading your comparison on these two apps, Trey.

  • Rick

    I’m a fan of Nik software in general, but very disappointed with HDR Efex Pro. I tried the demo, and I love the GUI, but the results were just not there. No matter how I tried I got nasty cross-hatch noise in the blue skies that never happens with Photomatix. Overall, the results have more noise and strange artifacts, and require more post-processing than I need with Photomatix 4. The ghosting and alignment comes nowhere near Photomatix. For the price of this software, it needs some fundamental improvement in output quality.

  • Stephen Clarke


    Hi Trey,
    I know that you are a very, very busy guy, (and I’m still generally in awe of how much you are able to accomplish), but I thought that I would ask anyway…

    How’s is that of ‘HDR Efex Pro’ review you have been working on coming along?

    Have you abandoned the using H.E.P. altogether or are you perhaps waiting for NIK to redeem themselves before completing a review?
    Despite no lack of effort, I am back to using Photomatix myself, as I have found that H.E.P. images are not as appealing as those processed in Photomatix and generally a heck of a lot more work to create. I’m generally a big NIK fan so it really pains me to have to admit that.

    It seems that there are a lot of image quality issues… sky noise, hatching, haze, etc. and by the time you have worked through cleaning those particular problems up, a whole new set of image quality issues have been created as a result. The final result often seems to be a trade off for the lesser of one quality problem for another.

    Perhaps Master Trey has unlocked a hitherto unbeknownst secret portal of success within the HDR Efex Pro realm and is ready to reveal these secrets to his Padawans?


  • I need to test the latest version of HDR Efex Pro… I usually want to process 50-100 images before I can make a good assessment… don’t want to rush anything !

    And, I only review software and hardware that I actually use on a daily basis. HDR Efex Pro has not taken that title yet.

  • Simon Gardner

    There is now a pdf tutorial for HDR Efex Pro at the HDR Efex Pro website for $24.99.

  • Robert Vitale

    I am disappointed in the software HDR Efex Pro 4.0 When I run a series of photos through for processing I get these weird blobs in the shadow areas. I don’t get them when I process them in Photomatix. I spoke to a technician at NIK and he told me it was my graphic card that was the cause. I kind of like the set up of HDR Efex Pro and wish I could use it more often but I have to use Photomatix instead. I’m kind of shying away from this app. They were to make improvments to there latest update but I have not noticed them in my work. I like ther other plug-ins very much but this one realy disapoints me.

  • Since starting to use this two weeks ago I have not opened Photomatix. So far it is producing great results IMHO.

  • ps…..this image was processed using HDR Efex.


  • Stephen Clarke

    Really nice photo and I like the composition Ian.
    I am curious however about two things:
    1) what this photo would have looked like processed in Photomatix
    2) how much time and effort it took you to get the photo to this state using HDR Efex.
    My experience with my own photos is that I can get a better looking picture out of Photomatix much, much faster than with HDR Efex. My guesstimation is that you could have produced your photo in much less time in Photomatix and it would have much richer colours that give the picture a more intangible ‘pop’.
    For example, I could be wrong, but I suspect that the pine bow on the left side of your picture would have more definition and would stand out more (somewhat 3d like) if it have been processed in Photomatix. Don’t get me wrong, your picture is wonderful and just suspect that it might have more ‘depth’ if processed in Photomatix.
    Thanks for sharing Ian!

  • Rich Alvarez

    I have tested this software for about two weeks and i also have tested photomatix pro for about the 1 week. I think I like the images that are produced with photomatix more but with HDR PRO sometimes I have been able to get really nice image styles that you just can not get with photomatix. The structure tool and method variations that come in this software are what really sets this software apart as you can really achieve various results that would be hard to do in photomatix. However Photomatix with Photoshop and NIK Color Efex is a lethal combination of photo processing software. I am running this on my 27″ imac with no problem. It does run slower than photomatix but has not crashed once.
    this image was processed in HDR PRO 3 exposures -2,0,+2 and then used color efex and cs5 to tweak it

    this image was also processed in HDR Pro as a single image tone mapped.

  • I think the main reason why Trey hasn’t published a full review of HDR Efex Pro yet is because he’s an honest mensch. 🙂 Despite all of Nik Software’s wonderful U-point technology and flexibility, the underlying alignment and tonemapping algorithms are simply mediocre, especially for natural scenery and skies. It is one of the least graceful in its handling of noise artifacts and cloud reproduction is terrible. On paper, HDR Efex Pro looked unbeatable and was almost universally hyped as the ultimate “Photomatix-killer” by almost everyone in the media. The moment the core HDR community actually started using it though, interest dwindled to a whisper and nowadays only the most devout NIK users will sing its praises.

  • An just getting into HDR and am having a hard time deciding whether to go with Nic’s HDR EFEX Pro 2, or Photomatix. I realize they are both very excellent programs.

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